Body Image Distortion

Body Image Distortion is a symptom for those with eating disorders, and other somatic issues, which effects the way the body is perceived or “felt”. People with body image distortion may see themselves as enormous when they look in the mirror, even when they are emaciated. In addition to this visual perception, they usually have physical sensations of being “weighed-down” or “heavy” in a specific body part, or even all over the body.

Malnutrition appears to be a major culprit causing body image distortion. Once established, it is difficult to eradicate even in patients who are in recovery and weight restored. Research has shown that the region of the brain responsible for experiencing fear were activated when anorectic patients were shown digitally altered pictures of themselves as appearing to be heavier than they actually were. This was not the case for healthy control subjects. Consequently, it seems that the lower the body weight gets, the worse the distortion becomes. This can lead into more starving behavior which may result in death.

Body image distortion is difficult to treat as it is abstract, but is experienced by the person as a very real and uncomfortable body sensation. In fact, body image distortion may lead the eating disordered person deeper into the illness, and those in recovery back into symptomatic behaviors more rapidly than other factors.


The Eating Disorders Treatment Center employs somatic therapy methods which include tracking the body’s sensations and processing underlying issues. This technique combined with weight restoration, and cognitive behavioral therapy provides those afflicted with body image distortion a better understanding of what they are experiencing, tools to combat the distortion, and the opportunity to continue in their recovery process without relapsing back into the eating disorder.

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